Gymnasts get surprise win

by Susan Filkins

The Gophers women’s gymnastics team left the Sports Pavillion Saturday shocked at the results of its meet.
Despite being shaky and timid, No. 19 Minnesota knocked off No. 12 Arizona, recording its first dual meet win of the season.
The Gophers defeated the Wildcats by a slim margin, 191.8 to 191.425. Despite scoring the lowest number of points all season, it was a much-needed win for Minnesota.
“It is great fun to beat a team that is ranked above you,” Gophers coach Jim Stephenson said. “Unfortunately this is not a score that is going to help us.”
Arizona also finished with its lowest team score of the season. This may be due in part to the absence of sophomore Heidi Hornbeck, who did not make the trip due to illness. Hornbeck tied for the NCAA championship on floor exercise with a 10.0 last year and currently leads Arizona in scoring in every event except the uneven bars.
“With her we could have still fallen and won the meet,” Arizona coach Jim Gault said.
Arizona started strong, outscoring the Gophers on the vault and the uneven bars. The Wildcats hit all their releases on the bars, while the Gophers did not.
Sophomore Cathy Keyser and senior Kristen Vandersall, two of the Gophers best competitors in the event, both fell during their releases, bringing down the overall team score.
“I had a really bad warm-up,” Keyser said. “It hindered my performance because psychologically I kept thinking about it. I wasn’t confident when I got up there because of that.”
After two rotations, the Gophers found themselves behind but still within reach. Entering the beam, they knew they had to stick everything. That didn’t happen.
Keyser’s problems continued on the beam as she missed her entry onto the apparatus. Sophomore Jenny Mazzone also fell during her routine. When the scores came in after the third rotation, the Gophers were still behind, but they were closing in.
In the final rotation, the Gophers took to the floor exercise, where they are ranked third nationally. The Wildcats were on the beam, where they are ranked No. 4.
Arizona’s last three competitors on the beam essentially lost the meet for the Wildcats by falling off the apparatus. Stephenson said Arizona’s performance on the beam made the difference in the end.
“They pretty much handed it to us,” Stephenson said.
The Gophers, unaware of what was happening with Arizona, knew they needed to finish strong on the floor in order to defeat the Wildcats. Another stellar performance provided them with the edge they needed.
Junior Mindy Knaeble continued to dominate on the floor, scoring a 9.9. Freshman Judith Cavazos scored a personal best on the floor finishing with a 9.85, and Vandersall also tied her personal best with a 9.875.
When the teams came back out on to the floor after the meet for the results, it was Arizona that was left stunned and the Gophers smiling. Minnesota was happy with the win, but not content.
“I think it’s luck that we beat them,” Knaeble said. “Both teams obviously didn’t have the best meet.”
The Gophers were also not overwhelmed by defeating a higher-ranked team.
“It doesn’t matter who is ranked and who is where and what you’re ranked,” Vandersall said. “If both teams are falling it is pretty much anybody’s game because falls are huge.”
Stephenson said his team now knows the reality of its ability to contend with Arizona, a team that has beaten Minnesota nine times out of 12.